at Salomon Contemporary
in the Chelsea 26th area
This event has ended - (2014-01-16 - 2014-02-22)
“Last Night,” an enigmatic group exhibition curated by Merrill Mahan, offers panoply of media that enriches the narrative force behind the stinging disclosures and personal inclinations inherent in the show’s theme. Colorful paintings on linen, canvas and nylon, framed and matted black and white ink jet prints, a color c-print, a pastel on paper, and a text wall piece of poured mirrored glass, as well as graphite drawings on paper all contribute to the individuality that reinforces the theme “Last Night.” James Salter’s short stories provide the underpinnings in which the protagonists explore aspects of their relationships to both themselves and to others. The roster of artists bent on making their statements features Yvonne Jacquette, McDermott and McGough, Will Cotton, Richard Pasquarelli, Jocelyn Hobbie, Andrew Bush, Ridley Howard, Amy Bennett, Matthew Pillsbury and Alexi Worth. There is little doubt that prime ground is being mined.
The personal images illuminate concepts so varied in origin and execution that the display challenges viewer perceptions as to the creative uses and possible functions of media within the province of the visual. This subtle, unexpected challenge, paired with the post-modern and art historic trends within the structure of the show, lends the singular works on view a stellar sense of power. There is a thread in each unique vision (with the exception of Matthew Pillsbury’s prints), which lends an undercurrent of separation to the motifs. If this connotes the presence of an underlying existential angst, these artists experience the standard intrinsic feelings fraught with hardships inherent in relationships through time.
This visual show is more cerebral than one might expect; it is in effect a compassionate salute to mankind’s groping efforts to clarify its feelings, and achieve its desires in life. While each artist’s issues vary, there are a few with tandem concerns that link their feelings and visions; Alexi Worth’s (oil on nylon) piece entitled “Formalists” and Ridley Howard’s (oil on linen) painting called “Brown Leather Boots” delve narrowly on select visions of the female form, as expressed within the limits of a specific sense of feminine allure. Matthew Pillsbury’s evanescent archival pigment ink prints present beautifully realized interiors peopled with subjects who delight in both privacy and in company. These works relate to Richard Pasquarelli’s cropped enigmatic drawings of home exteriors, whose lighted facades suggest the presence of life and warmth within.
Views of harmony at home veer sharply with the sensitively conceived Jocelyn Hobbie allegorical painting entitled “Party,” in which the pretty bright colors bring tension to the eternal narrative of the old being replaced by the young. This work makes a connection with the picture called “Prognosis” by Amy Bennett, that highlights the story of a group of relatives caught in the grip of the banal waiting that overlays the imminent terrors of a doctor’s utterances on the fate of a loved one. The small format projects a tense universal theme; that of death and its dreaded frightening impact.
Taking a turn toward less critical, but still painful matters, the McDermott & McGough painting, “Something I’ve Never Had” expresses a palpable emptiness; it highlights fashionable women, a handsome celebrity, designer clothing, jewels and fancy furniture in a remorseful expression of regrets for objects of desire that we perceive as permanently beyond our reach. The piece is created in a graphic, cartoon vernacular, that features blank “word bubbles” conveying a sense of emotional emptiness and bereftness. This sentiment is reiterated obliquely in Will Cotton’s “Coconut Cake,” a painting that yields a glimpse of a succulent girl whose mind seems preoccupied by the hopes of a wedding, as signaled by the cake. Her sad expression suggests thwarted wedding plans. On first glance, Richard Pasquarelli’s work “Night Sky” has “romantic” underpinnings; it is after all a sublime vision of nocturnal majesty. But the spidery dark web-like leaves hover over and mingle with the moonlit night sky, obliterating its unblemished purity. There is a viewing distance to this work; a close look reveals the subtle tonal shifts in sky and leaf fringes that imbue the work with richness and sophisticated painting variations. The drawings, which at first appear to be nondescript views of the doors and windows of suburban dwellings, exude an aura of mystery. One wonders what goes on inside these closed doors and shuttered windows. On another note, the Andrew Bush digital c-print displays a lone itinerant driver set in an isolated car with no visible landmarks to indicate its location. The title speaks to the aimlessness that is bred by the American car culture. It is practically an essay in itself; Man Drifting Northwest at Approximately 68 M.P.H. on U.S. Route 101 Somewhere near Camarillo, California, One Evening in 1989. The ironical wall work entitled “Chemistry,” by Rob Wynne, conveys with its irregular fonts the vagaries of that human phenomenon that explains so much, without saying a word!
There are more poetic subtle interpretations and variations of individuals, their lives, their fantasies, their families, our earth and its promises than one notices on a first view. Yvonne Jacquette’s pastel, “Maine Night Lights A,” displays a dark ariel view of colored urban night-lights that form the outline of a sky-lit bird constellation.
The show is loosely sub-divided into alternate groups; the Post-Modern group includes the “Chemistry” wall piece by Rob Wynne, the McDermott & McGough pop-art amalgam, and the unusual Alexis Worth figure painting. The Andrew Bush C-print is and the Matthew Pillsbury ink jet prints are buffer works. The alternate sub-group has roots in an art historical context; it comprises paintings and works on paper, including Richard Pasquarelli’s painting and his graphite drawings, Amy Bennett’s painting, Will Cotton’s piece, and the Yvonne Jacquette work on paper. The Will Cotton piece recalls the French painters Boucher and Watteau. The girl is in effect a lovely piece of pastry herself. In Jacquette’s painting, the murky sky speaks of the possible presence of smog, or a brewing storm that mars the night sky view. These groups create variety of expression with the attendant tension of opposition within the show, in response to the open-ended narrative of the theme. The Andrew Bush c-print adds a touch of Americana, in the car culture in which people seek answers to life’s problems by taking road trips.